I was introduced to the idea of spiritual practices more than thirty years ago. Daily journaling before my children were awake was my way in. Soon I began praying my surroundings and the events of the day as I walked around the neighborhood or the ball fields as my practiced. Choir became a spiritual practice as well, a way of integrating theology and scripture with my breath.
Fast forward another few years, to the fall of 2009 when I began to swim for laps after a hiatus of more than 30 years. Following the untimely death of a seminary classmate, a former swimmer and vibrant scholar who encouraged me to get back in the pool, I began to make time to pray as I made my way back and forth across the pool. And yes, I often reflected on baptism, cliché as it sounds.
Then it was summer, and the outdoor splash pad and lazy river pool opened. The pool hours changed, the lap pool was more crowded. Before I knew it, a seasonal Sabbath practice emerged that has become one of the most formative, and I admit, a favorite.
I love to read. I love to sit in the sun and watch people play in the water. I love to swim. So now I make a point, each Saturday and Sunday, and as weekday opportunities present, to put the never-ending to-do list of household tasks and work-related projected on hold. I go to the pool, sit in my pool chair, read, people-watch, play, rest, and yes, get my laps in.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day the routine changes. The pace slows down and I take in my surroundings with an eye to the people I’m with, not the task of swimming laps. I notice that I am in the minority as a Euro-American woman at my majority-minority county pool, where women in swim hijab play with their children and a variety of other accents reach my ears. In the summertime, children of God of all ages and skin color and sizes and shapes, stripped of most of the obvious external trappings of power (other than our skin color) play together. I continue to reflect upon how we are all part of creation, birthed of water and air, created in God’s image and called good.
Come Labor Day, I revert to my 7-year-old practice of Friday evening Sabbath. I started this practice after that first summer, when I realized that I would miss a weekly change of pace. There are those “live and breathe” tasks like feeding the dog and cat, to attend to, and the occasional sermon to write. But most Fridays, I light a candle, and reflect on people and places that come to mind from the events of the week. I often post a prayer or reflection on social media as part of this practice, inviting other people to pray with me, or simply to share my prayers with others. I’ve been encouraged along the way by RevGals Teri Peterson and Amy Fetterman, and MaryAnn McKibben Dana. And this little book, which I manage to give away at least once a year.
I notice that I begin to look forward to those summer afternoons beginning in March or April, when the days get longer. I start the list of book for the summer. I clean my trusty pool chair, stock up on sunblock, and mentally begin to rearrange my approach to the weekends.
It’s the end of July, and I have about a month of outdoor pool time, including a week at the beach, ahead of me. I have books to read, and a new bottle of sunscreen. And the other night, I found myself checking my stash of candles, preparing for the next season of Sabbath.
The Rev. Dr. Sarah F. Erickson is a clergy member of the Presbytery of S. Alabama serving as Director of Lifelong Learning at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA. She is committed to nurturing others through all stages of the journey of faith, and has a special interest in the role of worship and music in faith formation. When not writing, preaching and teaching, she enjoys her dog and cat, reading, the out-of-doors, swimming, walking, gardening and cooking. She is also known to enjoy spending time with her two sons, their spouses and Grandboys #1 and #2.
Want to read earlier posts our summer series on spiritual practices/disciplines? Find them at these links: Sewing, by T. Denise Anderson; Never on Pointe, by Mary Beene; Photography, by Catherine MacDonald; Pinteresting, by Amy Fetterman; and Walking, by Robin Craig.
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